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Full Name of the Country: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Capital City:Addis Ababa

Land:Ethiopia covers an area of 1.14 million square kilometers (944,000 square miles).

Climate

There are two major seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September.

Topography

Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. In the north and centre of the country there are some 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000 meters. The most famous Ethiopian river is the Blue Nile (or Abay), which runs a distance of 1,450 kilometers from the source in Lake Tana, to join the White Nile at Khartoum.

Economy

About 85 per cent of the population earns living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables, sugar and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, exporting cattle on the hoof, hides and skins.

Language

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state with a great variety of languages spoken in the country, of which there are 83 with 200 dialects. Amharic is the working language of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia while Oromigna, Tigrigna and Guragina are widely spoken. Moreover, English, Italian, French and Arabic are widely spoken in the spheres of commerce and education.

Religion

Major religions in the country are Christianity and Islam.

Internet

Internet domain or country code suffix .et Numerous internet cafes are available in Addis Ababa and in other cities.

Electric supply

Ethiopia uses 220 volts 50 cycles AC.

Telephone

International dialing code: +251

Time

Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hours time zone. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar.

People

The population is estimated at 83.1 million (UN 2007)

Main Exports

Coffee, hides, oil seeds, beeswax, meat, sugarcane, and flowers.

Excursions

Excursions within Ethiopia, whether for a day or for a month, may be organized for you by any of the travel agencies or by the National Tour Operation.

Clothing

In general between seasons clothes are appropriate. At higher altitudes, woolen clothes or a coat are needed in the evenings. Travelers should take rain coat or other rainwear, particularly when visiting the country during the period from February to October. It is usually possible to have clothes laundered at or near hotels within a short period of time (frequently services are offered 24 hours a day).

Hotels

Addis Ababa has hotels that cater for all pockets, from the luxurious Sheraton and Hilton hotels to the tourist-class hotels such as the Ghion, the Ethiopia and the Wabi Shebelle. All tourist resorts offer a choice of modern hotels.

Banking Hours

Banking hours are usually from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm from Monday to Friday and from 8:00 am – 11:00 am on Saturdays. Closing times may be an hour longer in some private banks. Most banks work through lunchtime; however foreign exchange services are closed during lunch hours (12:00 noon – 1:00 pm).

Shopping Hours

Shops are open Monday to Friday 8:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-very flexible, often longer opening hours; some shops are also open on Saturday. These days a few supermarkets and beauty salons in the capital are working 24 hours.

Communications

Telephone, fax and Internet access is available in Addis Ababa in most hotels, at the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority main office and at private Internet service centers situated around the city.

Courier and Money Transfer Services

Money transfers can be made through Western Union and Money Gram. Both have representative branches in Addis Ababa and also make their services available from private and national banks.

Four courier service providers DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT and EMS have offices in Addis Ababa.

Currency

The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB), made up of 100 cents. Birr notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities on the appropriate blue-colored form.

Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks and hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure.

In addition to any Ethiopian Birr, along with the currency exchange form you must bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.

Currency Importing:

Local currency (ETB) up to ETB 10.00 per person. Foreign currencies unlimited, provided declaration is made to the customs on arrival.

Currency Exporting:

Allowed local currency (ETB), provided passengers holds a re-entry permit ETB 10.00 per person. Foreign currencies up to the amounts imported and declared.

Public Holidays

Sunday is the weekly day of rest.

Public holidays are celebrated according to the Ethiopian (Julian) Calendar which consists of twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (six days in leap year). The calendar is seven years behind the Western or Gregorian Calendar, with New Year falling in the month of September.

Months Holidays
September 11 Ethiopian New Year
September 26 The finding of the True Cross (Meskal)
October 2 Id ul Fitr (Ramadhan)
December 9 Id ul Ahda (Sacrifice)
January 8 Ethiopian Christmas
January 20 Ethiopian Epiphany
March 2 Victory of Adwa
March 20 Birth of Prophet Mohammed (Mauwlid)
April 25 Ethiopian Good Friday
April 27 Ethiopian Easter
May 1 International Labour Day
May 5 Ethiopian patriots’ victory day
May 28 Downfall of the Dergue Regime
*The holidays of Id al Fater and Id al Adaha and the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.) are subject to moon sighting.

Customs

Duty-free imports are permitted for up to:

200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 1/2 lb of tobacco
2 liters of alcoholic beverages
Half-liter or two bottles of perfume.
Visitors may export souvenirs, although some articles (such as animal skin and antiques) require an export permit.

Health requirements

Prior to entry, visitors should be in possession of a valid health certificate for yellow fever. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia.

Visa and immigration requirements:

Visa are required for all foreign visitors to Ethiopian, with the exception of nationals of Kenya. Visa applications may be obtained at Ethiopia’s diplomatic missions overseas. However, nationals of 36 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas on arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge.

The list includes

Argentina,Australia,Austria,Belgium,Brazil,Canada,Czech Republic,Denmark,Finland,France,Germany,Greek,India,Ireland,Israel,Italy,Japan,Republic of Korea,
Kuwait,Luxembourg,Mexico,Netherlands,New Zealand,North Korea,Norway,Poland,Portugal,Russian Federation,Slovakia,South Africa,Spain,Sweden,Switzerland,Thailand,Citizens of United Kingdom and United States.


For China including passports issued in Hong Kong (SAR China)
and MACAO (SAR China), Visa is available on arrival.

Bahir Dar is one of the leading tourist destinations in Ethiopia, with a variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana and Blue Nile river. The city is known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers. It is also considered one of the most beautiful, well planned, and safest cities.

Bahir Dar is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile (locally called Abay). The city is located approximately 578 km (360 miles) north-northwest of Addis Ababa, and an elevation of 1,840 meters (6,036 foot) above sea level.

Transportation

Ethiopian Airlines operates daily flights between Bahir Dar and the capital as well as with Gondar to the northwest. The most common and convenient way of traveling in Bahir Dar is cycling. Taxis also provide efficient transportation in the city. Intercity bus service provided by the Selam Bus Line and Sky Bus Transport System which operates daily to and from the capital.

Bahir Dar's origins date to at least the sixteenth or seventeenth century; Pedro Páez is credited with erecting several buildings in this city, one of which is "a solid, two-storey stone structure, with an outside staircase" and can be seen in the compound of the present-day Giyorgis church

Bahir Dar, situated as it is on the southern extremity of Lake Tana, provides access to both the lake and its many islands, and to the Blue Nile Falls (Tis-Isat). The visitor to Bahir Dar will no doubt see tankwas on the lake shore and may at times catch glimpses of their construction.

The town today, with its wide, palm-lined avenues and gardens overflowing with tropical vegetation, is a place of considerable economic and commercial Bahir Dar - Lake Tana importance. Bahir Dar's two markets are both worth a visit: the general market, displaying colorful woven cloth and a wide range of supplies (including coffee); and the roadside market, specializing in baskets. There are also a variety of handicraft and weaving centers.

It is only a five-minute drive from the town, across the Blue Nile bridge, to the spot where the famous Blue Nile river flows out of Lake Tana. Take the second turning to the left after the bridge, where a signpost directs visitors to the Blue Nile Children's Home and Training Center, and continue to the lake's edge. The area by the lake is remarkably rich in bird life.

Emperor Haile Selassie's modest palace is on a small hill to the right of the road about two kilometers (one and a half miles) along the main road after the bridge. A signpost marks the turnoff to the asphalt road leading to the palace, which overlooks the river at a spot where hippopotamus are sometimes seen and offers a chance to inspect part of the monarch's private library, reception room, bedroom, and bar. Tours can be arranged through tour agents in Addis Ababa.

Bahir Dar, though bustling and pretty, is often looked at as just a base from which to visit the area's two main attractions: the Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana.

748 kilometers from the capital of Ethiopia is Gondar, served daily by Ethiopian airlines, with some good hotels. The oldest of Gondar’s many imperial structures is the impressive 17th century palace of Emperor Fasilidas. Many other fascinating historical buildings and relics can be seen in the area.

Gondar, once the Ethiopian capital, was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings.

Gaze down fromthe balconies of the many castles and palaces to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the 17th and 18th centuries of this great city.

The graceful city of Gonder, founded by Emperor fasilidas, become the capital of the Ethiopian empire around 1635.This settlement, which become fasilidas principal headquarters, grew into an important town, and remained Ethiopia’s capital, and most popular city, for over tow centuries.

Fasilidas endowed his capital with a sizeable palace, known as the fasil gemb, or Fasil building. It was larger and more impressive than any structure in Ethiopia up to that time.

Fasilidas, who reputedly constructed many other buildings and bridges in the city, was succeeded by his son, Emperor Yohannes (1667-1682), and later by his grandson, Iyasu1 (1682-1706), both of whom built more palaces in the vicinity of fasil gemb. Iyasu’s most lasting achievement was the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, the light of the Trinity, which stands, surrounded by a high wall. The inside is marvelously painted with great scenes from religious history.

Apart from the famous castle in the royal compound, visitors should inspect the so-called bathing palace of the Emperor. This two storey crennellated stone structure has a flat roof and two wooden balconies.

It is set the middle of a large rectangular bath, reminiscent of a modern swimming-pool, which was traditionally filled with water brought by pipe from the nearby Qaha River. It was intended fro the Timket Celebrations which commemorated the Baptism of Christ-a use to which the bath is put to this day.

Timkat celebration at GondarSeveral more palaces were raised by both Yohannes 1 and Iyasu 1. They later built a large two-storey crennelated structure beside that of their grandfather Fasilidas.

The reigns of the first three Gondarie rulers thus witnessed a steady expansion of the city, in the course of which an imperial quarter came into existence.

Gondar is a town of fairy-tale medieval castes and is noted fro the design and decoration of its churches, masterpieces, which were constructed from stone in the from of crenellated castles, are of a significant distinctive design.

Flanked by twin mountain streams Gondar retains an atmosphere of antique charm mingled with an aura of mystery. The city was once a vigorous and vital centre of religious learning and art. Painting and music, dance and poetry, together with skilled instructions in these and many other disciplines, thrived for more than two hundred years. Fasilidas and his successors saw their elegant capital as a renaissance of Ethiopian culture and so patronised the arts.

The fascination with painting, mainly expressed through church murals, icons, illuminated manuscripts and scrolls, has remained. Religious themes dominate all but the most recent Ethiopian art.

It is also worth visiting the ruins of the palace and abbey of the redoubtable 18th century Empress Mentewab at Quesquam overlooking Gondar. The royal compound, like that at Gondar proper, contains a number of buildings. The largest was apparently used for receptions and served as headquarters of the garrison.

The palace compound was surrounded by a 'high outer-wall;' which was about a mile in circumference, with outer precincts all occupied by soldiers, labourers and out-doors servants. Quesquam is wonderful and historic place.

Outside the palace compound, a second important building constructed during Iyasu's reign is the church of Debre Birhan Selassie (or light of Trinity), which stands on raised ground to the north west of the city. This is the finest of the Gondarine churches, with its ceiling decorated with many winged angels.

In the old days it was surmounted by a gold cross, which is now gone. However, original walls painted from top to bottom with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history are well preserved.

Because of its extensive population, and the considerable patronage offered by both state and church, Gondar emerged as a major handicraft centre. Many of the city's principal artisans come from minority groups. Falasha (Jewish) craftsmen include blacksmiths, weavers and masons, and their womenfolk are potters. Muslim craftsmen are mainly weavers and tent­makers, some of whom also served as tent carriers and carpenters.

The small town of Debark, 101 kilometres to the north of Gondar, provides a base from which to explore the Simien Mountains. Visitors to the unforgettable mountains are able to see animals such as the Gelada baboon and Simien wolf, which are unique to Ethiopia. The edge of the gorges form the perfect habitat for the Walia Ibex.

Scarred and dissected by countless deep ravines, tumultuous forces shaped the dramatic landscape of Ethiopia’s Mountains.

The town of Lalibela was originally known as Roha. It was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. Lalibela was a member of the Zagwe dynasty, which had seized the Ethiopian throne around 1000 AD. When his rivals began to increase in power, Lalibela sought the support of the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building the churches in this small town.

King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum, with its Ark of the Covenant). According to some reports, he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique.

The churches of Lalibela were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding.

Popular legend has it that angels came every night to pick up where the workmen had left off. One of the churches, Bet Maryam, contains a stone pillar on which King Lalibela wrote the secrets of the buildings' construction. It is covered with old cloths and only the priests may look on it.

King Lalibela's project for gaining the church's favor had two unexpected results: the creation of a holy place of unparalleled beauty and the king's conversion to a religious life. After laboring for 20 years, he abdicated his throne to become a hermit, living in a cave and eating only roots and vegetables. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.

The churches have been in continuous use since they were built in the 12th century. The first Europeans to see these extraordinary holy sites were Portugese explorers in the 1520s, one of whom noted in his journal that the sights were so fantastic, he expected readers of his descriptions would accuse him of lying.

What to See at the Rock-Cut Churches of Lalibela

The roofs of the Lalibela churches are level with the ground and are reached by stairs descending into narrow trenches. The churches are connected by tunnels and walkways and stretch across sheer drops. The interior pillars of the churches have been worn smooth by the hands of supplicating worshippers.

The rock-cut churches are simply but beautifully carved with such features as fragile-looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, swastikas (an Eastern religious motif) and even Islamic traceries. Several churches also have wall paintings.

Each church has its own resident monk who appears in the doorway in colorful brocade robes. Holding one of the church's elaborate processional crosses, usually made of silver, and sometimes a prayer staff, these monks are quite happy to pose for pictures. Some sport incongruously modern sunglasses with their splendid ensemble.

There are 11 rock-cut churches at Lalibela, the most spectacular of which is Bet Giorgis (St. George's). Located on the western side of the cluster of churches, it is cut 40 feet down and its roof forms the shape of a Greek cross. It was built after Lalibela's death (c.1220) by his widow as a memorial to the saint-king. It is a magnificent culmination of Lalibela's plans to build a New Jerusalem, with its perfect dimensions and geometrical precision.

Unlike some of the other churches, St. George's is plain inside. A curtain shields the Holy of Holies, and in front of it usually stands a priest displaying books and paintings to visitors. In the shadows of one fo the arms of the cruciform church is its tabot, or copy of the Ark of the Covenant. One explorer was allowed to open it and found it empty. No one was able to tell him what happened to its contents.

In the "Northern Group" across the main road from St. George, the most notable church is Beta Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross and believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world. It is thought to be a copy of St. Mary of Zion in Axum.

Bete Medhane Alem is linked by walkways and tunnels to Beta Maryam (St. Mary's), possibly the oldest of the churches. In the east wall of the church is an array of geometric carved windows in a vertical line. From the bottom up is: a Maltese cross in a square; a semi-circle shape like that on the Axum stelae; a Latin cross; and a simple square window.

The windows illuminate the Holy of Holies in which the church's copy of the Ark is placed. Other decorations include a Star of David combined with a Maltese cross, a Sun with a smiling human face flanked by eight-spoked wheels, Mary on a donkey accompanied by Joseph, and an Annunciation.

Next to Beta Maryam is Beta Golgotha, known for its artwork which includes life-sized carvings of saints on the walls. It is also home to the tomb of King Lalibela, over which stands a gold-draped Ark. The Western group is completed by the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam.

The "Eastern Group" includes:

Farther afield lie the monastery of Ashetan Maryam and Yimrehane Kristos church (possibly from the 11th century).

Tips for Visiting

Getting down and into the churches of Lalibela requires some dexterity. The steps can be steep, rocky and rough.

Self-appointed helpers help you on the steps as well as take care of your shoes, which you have to remove when you enter the churches. When you come out, you will find your shoes neatly lined up with the others.

Many visitors to Lalibela hire a local tour guide to show them around and explain the sights.

 

Aksum is perhaps most famous and well known by the mysterious stelaes. It is also the alleged resting place of the biblical Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the legendary Queen of Sheba. The Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire was an important trading nation in northeastern Africa, ruled from approximately 100–940 AD. The Empire of Aksum at its height extended across most of present-day Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia and northern Sudan. The capital city of the empire was Aksum, now in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name "Ethiopia" as early as the 4th century.

The Aksum Empire was named as one of the four great powers of the world along with Persia, Rome, and China. Aksum’s prosperity seems to have peaked in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD. Monumental royal tombs were constructed, each marked by a huge monolithic stela carved to represent a multi-storied building. Around the same time, Aksum began to produce its own coinage, with gold used for international trade, and copper and silver for local circulation. In about AD 340, the Aksumite kingdom formally adopted Christianity under king Ezana (320–360 AD), becoming only the second nation in the world (after Armenia) to do this.

History of the Aksum Kingdom

Aksum ObliskAksum lies on the western side of the northern Ethiopian highlands, some 200 km inland from the strategic ancient port of Adulis on the Red Sea coast of modern Eritrea. Aksumite kingdom rising to importance around the time of the birth of Christ. During the first seven centuries AD, Aksum was the capital of a major far-reaching empire, a kingdom that dominated the vital crossroads between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. The Aksumites introduced a written language, Ge'ez, and created a new imperial power and political cohesion. They also gave Ethiopia its first organized religion – Christianity -in the fourth century AD.

Aksum rose from the gradual merging of an indigenous farming population with immigrants from southern Arabia. These had settled in the region several hundreds of years previously, bringing with them important cultural traditions, including literacy in a Semitic language. Aksum rapidly became powerful and prosperous. It occupied fertile land, and with access to ivory and gold the Aksumites established political leadership over surrounding populations, and attracted trade from far beyond its own borders, mainly through the port of Adulis. Despite this, and its literary and technological achievements.

Aksum Empire


Gadarat or also known as GDRT was most likely the first Aksumite king to be involved in South Arabian affairs, as well as the first known king to be mentioned in South Arabian inscriptions. His reign resulted in the control of much of western Yemen, such as the Tihama, Najran, Ma'afir, Zafar (until c. 230), and parts of Hashid territory around Hamir in the northern highlands. Furthermore, GDRT's military alliances and his conquests in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the required formidable fleet for such feats, and the extension of Aksumite influence throughout Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia all reflect a new zenith in Aksumite power.

His involvement would mark the beginning of centuries of Aksumite involvement in South Arabia, culminating with the full-scale invasion of Yemen by King Kaleb in 520, resulting in the establishment of an Aksumite province covering all of South Arabia. GDRT's name preserved in Ethiopian tradition through the book of The Kebra Nagast or The Glory of Kings, traditional king lists, as what seem to be variants of his name crop up in three of them. Zegdur (ze meaning 'of' in Ge'ez) listed as the third king, after the legendary Menelik I.

Early in the 6th century AD, Aksum engaged in warfare in South Arabia, which soon drained the state’s resources, and Christian Aksum declined in prosperity and international importance. As the sixth and seventh centuries progressed Aksum's position grew more difficult. The independence of the Yemen was followed by its conquest by Persia during the reign of the Sassanian king Khusro I (531-579), and further Persian disruption of the Roman east followed with the conquest of Syria and Egypt under Khusro II. This seems to have dried up some of Aksum's flow of trade, and the kingdom's expansionist days were over. Arab conquests followed in the mid-seventh century, and the whole economic system which had maintained Aksum's prosperity came to an end. Christian Ethiopia retained its control of the highlands, but seems to have turned away from the sea in the centuries after the advent of Islam and begun to look more southwards than eastwards during the following centuries.

The spectacular rise of Islam in the seventh century was the main cause of Aksum's decline. Although there was no direct aggression, Arab influence in the Red Sea cut off trade and cultural relations, and Ethiopia found itself isolated from the rest of the world. However, even after the realm's decline, the city remained Ethiopia's religious capital as well as the place where several medieval emperors went to be officially crowned. The town abounds in archaeological remains - including the graves of kings, the foundations of a palace, inscribed tablets, and great carved obelisks.

Bale Mountains National Park is located in Oromia region southeast of Ethiopia. Bale Mountains are the second highest mountain range in Ethiopia. Much of the Bale range is protected in an eponymous national park, the area has a large variety of wildlife. Saneti Plateau is home to the largest population of the rare and endangered Ethiopian wolves.

The southern escarpment is covered by Harenna Forest, one of the most extensive and large natural forests remaining in Ethiopia. The Bale National Park is known for its wild alpine spectacular scenery, high mountains, sweeping valleys and dramatic escarpment. Wide expanses of the forests provide visitors with a diversity of vistas, unique to the Ethiopian highlands.

Climate of the Bale Mountains is characterized by a high rainfall and periods of damp cloudy weather, interspersed with periods of sparkling sunny days with blue skies. The climatic year can be divided into: dry, early wet and wet seasons. The dry season is usually from November to February, the best period to visit the National Park, especially for hiking and horse trekking in the mountains.

Gaysay area from the little Gaysay River that flows into the Web near Dinsho village, consists of Boditi peak at the southern end of the Lajo Spur. The main road crosses part of the Gaysay area, just before reaching Dinsho. Entrance gate lies north of the main road, seven kilometers before the village, if you coming from Shashamenne a small track from the gate leads you across the Gaysay River and then divides at the base of the mountains.

There is an option to travel to Shashemene, from where you can explore the Rift Valley and pay a visit the Sof Omar Caves. The network of limestone caverns, which has been carved by the Web River in its plunge from the Bale highlands. Here vegetation is very different dry lowland with wooded grasslands, the most noticeably animal at Sof Omar Caves area is the Greater and Lesser Kudu relatives of the Mountain Nyala and tiny Dik Dik antelope.
The Sof Omar are an important site of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Muslims, though their religious significance, according to tradition Sof Omar was the name of a holy Muslim man who lived in the area.

Sof Omar Caves are the longest caves system in Ethiopia and the longest in Africa, ranks as the second longest caves in the world. The river passage continues from the chamber of columns meandering for about 200 m to the big rapids, this striking feature is formed from a jumble of huge boulders. Sof Omar Cave system an extraordinary natural phenomenon, the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in Africa.
The caves carry the whole flow of the Web River underground through wonderfully carved caverns, to exploring Sof Omar Caves require skills, time and special equipment, a friendly local guide will show you enough of the caves to make your trip worthwhile.

The Lower Valley of the Omo is located in south-western Ethiopia. It extends over an area of 165 km2. The age old sedimentary deposits in the Lower Omo Valley are now world renowned for the discovery of many hominid fossils, that have been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution.

The Lower Omo Valley includes the Konso and Fejej paleontological research locations with sedimentary deposit going back to the plio-pleistocene period. These have produced numerous hominid and animal fossils, including fragments of Australopithecus. The deposits of human vertebrae fauna, and paleo-environmental evolution, shed light on the earliest stages of the origins and development of Homo sapiens of Africa. The discoveries of ancient stone tools in an encampment also offers evidence of the oldest known technical activities of prehistoric beings, thus making the property one of the most significant for mankind.

To ensure Omo’s position as the yardstick against which all other ancient deposits in East Africa are measured, researched evidence from the site has established bio-stratigraphical, radiometric and magneto-stratigraphical scales spanning between one and 3.5 million years.

Due to its very remote location, the Omo Valley is a site that is uniquely preserved for scientific research purposes. Although no development activities are foreseen in the near future, it is vulnerable to the work of petroleum companies and other plantation operating around the site, and has been at risk from pillage.

 

Harar was established by Sultan Abu Beker Mohammed in 1520. Harar, the Holy City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, is believed to be the forth-holiest city after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. The old City Wall of Harar is the main attraction and symbol of Islamic architecture. Harar has approximately 90 mosques, which form the largest concentration of mosques in the world. One of Harar's main attractions is the hyena man who feeds hyenas on the outskirts of the town every night.

Harar is known for its turmoil and bloodshed. Ahmed Gragn killed Abu Beker Mohammed who was the ruler of Harar. Ahmed Gragn was a militant Muslim leader and used Harar as his base to launch his jihad and raids against the Ethiopian Christian Empire in 1528. He destroyed many churches and threatened the complete distruction of Ethiopian Christendom. He was killed by Emperor Gelawdewos in a Battle near Lake Tana in 1543. The raids continued against the Christians led by Ahmed Gragn's widow Bati Del Wambara. In 1559, Emperor Gelawdewos marched on Harar with the aim to eradicate the constant religious sectarianism taking place. Gelawdewos was killed in a battle and his head was paraded around the city on a stake.

In 1647, Emir Ali ibn Daud took control the city and established an autonomous administration. Despite the continuous fighting with Oromo tribes, Harar expanded; it became well populated, an important city for trade and a centre of Muslim scholarship. It issued its own currency. After 250 years of autonomous rule, Egypt occupied Harar and killed the Emir in 1875. The Egyptian action created a strong resistance in the Muslim community of Harar. Emir Abdullah took control and led a campaign against the Egyptians, which ended in 1885.

In 1887, Harar lost its autonomy when Menelik, Prince of Shewa, who later became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, waged war against the army of Emir Abdullah. Menelik defeated the Emir at the Battle of Chelenko in 1887. Menelik then established a new administration, including several members of the emir's family to prevent renewed religious sectarianism, headed by Ras Mekonnen, the father of Emperor Haile Selassie.

Harar then began to disintegrate and lost its status as a trade centre in the end of nineteenth century when the railway line was built between Addis Ababa and Djibouti through Dire Dawa. From 1902, Dire Dawa became the main commercial centre of Ethiopia.

However, Harar remained as the spiritual City of Ethiopia's Muslim community, the political capital of Hararge Province until 1994 and has become a federal city-state since 1995.

 

75,600ha Awash National Park is at a road distance of ± 225km east of Addis Ababa from where it can be reached in about 3 hours over the highway to Djibouti, which actually runs through it separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north. The Awash River runs through a canyon or gorge in the Southern part of the park where it falls off the cliffs of the famous Awash Waterfalls. The Awash Falls Lodge is located within the park at 5 minutes walking distance from the falls.

Why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL cultural places Ethiopia is so famous for, and on top of that, you get to see up to 12 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a conservation forester. There is nothing similar on the market. As Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize tours in modules. Destinations Overview: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eathern Route; Simien Mountains; Bale Mountains; Southern Parks Safari; Gambella; Addis Ababa BUT WAIT: if you buy your international ticket with Ethiopia Airlines, they will sell the internal flights at a price that you can't even ride the bus for. But you MUST plan it all in one package and making changes will be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip for an incredibly low price!

The Awash river never reaches the sea as it ends in the highly saline Lake Abbe, gradually losing its water to evaporating - and irrigated farming - as it runs through the arid Awash Valley. North of the highway, the landscape is dominated by the Fentale Volcano at the Northern border of the park where one can seen its last lava enormous lava flow of 1820. One also finds the Filwoha oasis with hot springs amid a palm grove at the Northeastern park limit.

Most of the park is covered by shrub savannah and open grassland, with exception of the left shore of the Awash River, which is a dense Gallery forest.

Wildlife in this park include the Oryx, Soemmerring's Gazelle, the tiny Salt Dik-Dik, the lesser and greater Kudus, Warthogs, Defarsa waterbuck, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons, Colobus and Grivet monkeys, Leopards, Lions, Black-Backed and Golden Jackals, Caracals, Servals and Wildcats.

The bird list has about 470 species, of which we mention:

  • Six endemics: Banded Barbet, Golden-Backed Woodpecker, White-Winged Cliff Chat, White-Tailed Starling, Thick-Billed Raven and Wattled Ibis;
  • On the open grassland plains one has a chance to see several species hawks and Secretary birds, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Carmine Bee-eaters, and the Abyssinian Roller;
  • In the wooded vegetation one can find Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove, Green Wood-Hoopoes, Red and Yellow Barbets, Coucal, Turaco, Go-away bird, Silver-cheeked hornbill just to name a few.

The Great African Rift Valley extends down from Jordan in the Middle East all the way down to Mozambique in Southern Africa. It splits the country’s highlands in two and contains the Rift Valley Lakes to the south. These lakes are well known for being amongst the deepest and oldest lakes in the world, as well as for containing 800 species of cichlid that can be found nowhere else in the world (these are especially obvious in Lake Nyassa/Malawi in the Southern Rift Valley Lakes, found in Malawi).

The lakes are mostly alkaline, and do not have outlets for the water contained within them. The major ones are Lake Abaya, Lake Chamo, Lake Awassa, Lake Ziway and Lake Abiata. Whilst Lake Tana is the most well-known lake in the country, it is not one of the Rift Valley lakes, and is found in the highlands next to the town of Bahir Dar.

Ethiopia Lake Chamo Nachisa Landscape

Lake Abaya was originally known as Lake Margherita, and is fed on the northern shore by the Bilate River. Due to a large number of sediments suspended in the water, the lake has a red colour. It does not have an outlet, but when it is very full will flood into nearby Lake Chamo. The lake shore to the south is part of the Nechisar National Park.
The Nechisar National Park protects the Nechisar “White Grass” Plains as well as the two lakes and the mountainous ‘Bridge of God’ dividing the lakes. There is a rich habitat density here, from acacia scrub to open grasslands, and there are 70 mammal and around 340 bird species that can be found here. There are also 15 endemic butterflies, and 8 endemic dragonflies which can be seen on the lakeshores. The park is beautiful and unusual, largely to the two lakes it protects.

Lake Chamo is located to the south of Lake Abaya, and the northern shores are also protected by the Nechisar National Park. There is no outflow to this lake, but it will overflow into the Sagan River. It has healthy populations of hippo and crocodile, and is a wonderful blue colour.

Lake Awassa is the most studied of the Rift Valley Lakes, and it is a freshwater lake which indicates that even though it does not have a visible outlet, the water must leave through a subterranean outlet. Set in a volcanic crater, it has an abundance of plankton and fish, and supports a large city of the same name that has grown up on its edges. With a mountainous backdrop and beautiful vegetation, this is a beautiful lake to spend a night by. There is also a dyke which was built to stop flooding, which is perfect for birdwatching – walking along it, fish eagle, black-winged lovebirds, yellow-fronted parrots and the country’s indigenous oriole are a few of the many species of birds that can be seen.

Ethiopia Lake Awassa

Lake Ziway is also a freshwater lake, and it has five islands of which one is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant; this is clearly a topic of some debate, as one of the islands in Lake Tana at Bahir Dar is also said to have been the site the Ark landed on! The lake is fed by the Meki and Katar Rivers, but does not always have an outflow; sometimes it overflows into Lake Abiata. The lake has plenty of hippo in it, and has a healthy population of birds.

With large numbers of Tilapia nilotica, a fish that can weigh up to 1.5 kg, the fishing industry does well here and the fish are served fresh in many of the restaurants in the nearby town. The fish also attract a large number of water-associated birds, which can be seen in the reed-lined fringes of the lake. Lake Abiata is to the south of Lake Ziway, and to the north there are a number of hot springs which are important to the locals, and are also a popular tourist attraction.

The lake is saline, and has recently undergone a decline in water level. This has resulted in the loss of fish-eating birds as the fish have died, but an increase in algae-eating birds such as greater and lesser flamingos. The lake is located in the Abiata-Shala national park, and amongst the attractions here the greatest are the beautiful lakes and the hot springs. These are hot enough to cook maize, and has an almost Biblical atmosphere due to the steam and the white-robed bathers that appear through the mist amongst the reeds.

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